How to Make Your Vehicle Wraps Last as Long as Possible

by Yuki Chan on May 5, 2017

As our vehicles work hard everyday on the road to perform services to clients and to promote about our brands, it is inevitable for them to become dirty or encounter contaminants that require extra cleaning procedures. These contaminants can be classified as environmental and non-environmental. Check out below to learn more about vehicle graphics contaminants, how to avoid them, and the proper way to handle them.

Environmental Contaminants On Vehicle Wraps And Graphics

Transit Connect wrap delivery van Riveting Wraps Bellevue Seattle WA.jpgEnvironmental contaminants are those that come from nature, including bird droppings, tree saps, bug splatters, smog, dirty pollutants, pollen, etc.. Once landed on the vehicle, they stay on its surface until being washed away by rain, blown away or removed by cleaning. If these contaminants are not removed in a timely manner, they will accumulate on the vehicle surface. As time goes by, they become more and more difficult to thoroughly remove. Even after they are cleaned away, there might be stains or marks left behind on the vehicle surface. Removal could ultimately require the use of chemicals, force or abrasion,  resulting in unintentional superficial damages on the previously unspoiled paint/vinyl layer.

How To Avoid Environmental Contaminants: There's no 100% method to avoid these contaminants. However, they can definitely be minimized by selecting the right spots to park:

  • Avoid parking under trees as that is the major reason why vehicle becomes a landing field for tree saps, pollen, fallen leaves, and bird droppings
  • Whenever possible, park in a garage or covered parking area
  • If the vehicle must be parked outdoor for a long period of time, use a cloth cover

cleaning_franchise_fleet_graphics_Riveting_Wraps_Bellevue_WA.jpgHow To Remove Environmental Contaminants: First, try soaking the contaminated area with hot soapy water using a soft towel. After several minutes, rinse the area thoroughly and give it time to dry. This is the gentle method that warrant minimal damage to the vehicle surface. If the contaminant still exists, use a chemical such as Meguiar’s Gold Class™ Bug and Tar Remover, 3M™ Citrus Base Cleaner, Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) (2 parts IPA :1 part water), or denatured alcohol. The chemical should be first tested on an unobtrusive area to ensure that it is safe on vinyl. The contaminated area should only be spot cleaned. Do not scrub or use any abrasive tools and rinse off all residual chemicals.

Non-Environmental Contaminants On Vehicle Wraps And Graphics

box truck wrap party rentals GSR Riveting Wraps Seattle WA.jpgChemicals that vehicles pick up on the road or from accidental spills are considered non-environmental contaminants. Some examples are road tar, road salt, fuel, and inappropriate cleaning chemicals. Road tar, also known as bitumen or asphalt, is a black sticky substance that clings onto vehicles as they are being driven on the road. There are no prevention methods for road tars.

During winter times, road salts are often sprinkled on the road to lower the freezing point, thus minimizing the formation of ice. While vinyl wraps and graphics are resistant to road salt, vehicles aren't (learn about how vehicle graphics resist rain, sun, and snow). Road salt can induce rusting on the vehicle and vinyl graphics do not hold on rusted surfaces.

When fueling up the vehicle, fuel spills might accidentally happen. It should be tackled immediately as fuel can degrade vinyl and adhesive.

Lastly, vinyl wraps and graphics must only be cleaned and cared with the right chemicals. Other abrasive and solvent based chemicals can cause unwanted damages to the graphics. 

How To Avoid Non-Environmental Contaminants

Follow below for the best practices to eliminate non-environmental contaminants.

  • Road salt and road tar cannot be prevented. The best option is to remove them more frequently and promptly to avoid accumulation.
  • Be more careful when holding the fuel gun. A gas guard can be installed over the fuel filling neck to catch the dripping fuel. 
  • Read the instructions and components carefully before applying any chemicals on vinyl surfaces. Try on inconspicuous areas first.

Safe Hoods sprinter graphics driver side view Riveting Wraps Bellevue WA.jpgHow To Remove Non-Environmental Contaminants: To remove tar on vehicle graphics, use the same procedures as dealing with environmental contaminants. For road salt, get rid of them as soon as possible with a general vehicle wraps cleaning. Use a wet paper towel for a quick wipe as an emergency handling of fuel spill. Do a thorough cleaning right away when possible. In case a wrong chemical was used on the vehicle wraps or graphics, clean with a general cleaner immediately. The contaminated area should only be spot cleaned. Do not scrub or use any abrasive tools and rinse off all residual chemicals.

Long Lasting Vehicle Wraps Come From Care

According to 3M, if a vehicle wrap is properly maintained, it can last up to seven years! Aside from durability, vehicle wraps and graphics must be regularly cleaned to preserve the pristine image of the brand it is advertising for. This is the most crucial reason of all. Click to learn more about the importance of keeping vehicle wraps clean.

For more cleaning tips, check out the following:

New Call-to-actionKickstart your vehicle advertising today! Give Riveting Wraps a call today at (425) 368-5007 or email us at Do not forget to check out our Portfolio!

Topics: Vehicle Graphics Care

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